With rising numbers of youth mental illness and suicide in Australia, The Sebastian Foundation, founded by Guy and Jules Sebastian, has announced a new partnership with Open Parachute to bring an innovative youth mental health program into primary and secondary schools nationwide.

Created by clinical psychologist, Dr Hayley Watson, Open Parachute is a ground-breaking program built on the strength of peer-to-peer learning. It blends psychology with the incredibly powerful medium of film to build mental health skills in young people, with the aim of making psychological skills-building relatable and accessible for young Australians.

Australian youth have the highest prevalence of mental illness than any other age group (21 percent) with suicide the leading cause of death for 15 – 24-year old’s in Australia. The program has been built to bring these statistics to a halt and tackle the toughest issues that teenagers face including bullying, depression, anxiety, addiction, racism, trauma, suicide, abuse, peer pressure, isolation and body image.

Designed to be flexibly embedded into the school curriculum in between four – eight sessions, Open Parachute has been tailored to meet Australian learning outcomes from Years five to 12.

With two young children of his own, Australian singer and songwriter, Guy Sebastian, said he and his wife Jules felt overwhelmed and concerned about the rising numbers of youth mental illness and wanted to support a program that will help make a real difference and create long term change.

“The statistics are deeply shocking. So many young people are suffering from mental illness, yet only a small portion of the total health care budget is spent on mental health,” Guy Sebastian said.

“That’s why we are incredibly proud to partner with Open Parachute to launch a program into Australian classrooms that’s going to drive real impact and change the way we view and talk about youth mental health.”

“When we started The Sebastian Foundation in 2013, we really wanted to focus on helping people live the best lives that they can. We are particularly passionate about supporting and nurturing the next generation, particularly when it comes to their mental health. We know this program will make a huge difference in the lives of all teenagers and urge schools and teachers around the nation to get involved,” he added.

Jules Sebastian added, “I have seen close up how serious mental health can be. I think by educating young people through Open Parachute, we can help to have honest conversations about their thoughts and feelings, and let them know they are not alone.”

“We recognise as parents that the landscape has changed for children. It is very different to the one we had growing up. Social media, online bullying and comparison are huge challenges to navigate and we need a program that is specifically designed to tackle the issues they are facing now. These problems are prevalent and urgent. We don’t want to wait till it’s too late to make the changes children and teenagers need.”

Dr Hayley Watson, the Founder of Open Parachute, said engaging teenagers in open conversations about their thoughts and feelings has never been easy, and this new program helps overcome the barriers young Australians face in learning practical mental health skills.“By using real stories from real teens who have overcome difficulties, we are confident we can make a difference in the lives of Australian youth. We’re also taking this program to schools in North America and through our research partner, Columbia University, we are already seeing positive results including increases in student self-efficiency, mental health literacy and self-awareness,” she said.

Supported by The Sebastian Foundation, Open Parachute is set to launch in Australia in March and will be introduced into schools across the nation in Term Two (2).

Head to openparachute.com.au to find out more and register your school’s interest.